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Interesting proof of concept, disappointing humour, May 27, 2023
~~ Updated Review from the 2022 IFComp bc I played the game again ~~
Approaching Hordes! is part Choice-based, part Resource Management in a basic SugarCube UI, following the player has he leaves his infected family behind and tries to survive hordes of zombies.
The game start with a short prologue, spanning a couple of days, where you notice an increase of gunshots in the neighbourhood and order your wife to check it out (day 0); wake up, find your neighbour informing you of the zombie apocalypse, find your wife having turned into s zombie and Mike-Tyson-punch her, and set up camp (day 1); constructing a guard tower (day 2, very quick); and becoming unanimously the leader of the 11 survivors (day 3).
Then starts the Resource Management. At the time of the first review, I had not seen many Twine games doing something that was not Choice-Based (aside from my own little tavern). Instead of taking the traditional approach of a choice list to resolve issues, Approaching Hordes! combines the Idle game format to managing the compound and its resources. It is an interesting way of pushing the SugarCube/Twine engine in this manner. You have three levels of difficulty. I've played only on Easy and Medium.
However, it soon becomes tedious, and I would put the blame on the idleness of the game. Resource management is very fun, as having to balance the use and harvest of set resources can be challenging but also quite rewarding. Idle games, on the other hand, often requires you to step away from the game and leave it on in the background. Except you can't do that here. Closing and reopening the game brings you right back to the moment you left it. Leave the page idle for too long or change tabs and it just... pauses. You have to keep the page open and focused, watching the bar fill up slowly.
There is nothing else to do in the meantime, no extra story, no dialogue with the other survivors, no personal thoughts... just sitting at a desk and moving people around.
Granted the first quarter(-ish) of that part is a bit stressful. You only have 10 survivors with you out of the max 50, you need to make sure you have enough food, that there are guards around, that the compound is secure and repaired, and that the camp is happy. But as soon as you max out the survivors (which can be preeeettttyyyy quick), you are essentially done. It's just a matter of moving a few of the survivors around to the relevant ending (escaping or cure).
The first time I played the game (during the IFComp), I got incredibly bored and just let my survivors die/leave camp halfway through (all forced to build that tunnel, waiting for the end link to appear on my screen (I think I got a bad ending). This time, I tried to be more diligent and finished the zombie cure. But by jove was it tedious. I was legit writing this review at the same time to fill my waiting between moving one or two survivors around.
Depending on the path taken (win/lose - cure/escape), you will have a bit of a different ending from a news-cliping, before you are able to see the different important steps of your journey in a notebook. But those are just two screens. And after spending all this time waiting and clicking stuff every few minutes or so, it honestly felt unrewarding (especially when I freakin found the cure!!).
Suffice to say, it still didn't tickle my bone the second time around either...
Some other points:
* there is humour in the text, but it really wasn't to my taste. The jokes and the nudges fell flat or forced. It often made me cringe, but not in a enjoyable way.
* I still don't know if you are supposed to like the protagonist at all (from the text, I don't think so?), but I thoroughly hated him. He is an absolute dick (especially to his wife) but somehow everyone thinks the sun shines from his ass (how you get the leadership still astounds me).
* I wasn't particularly moved by the prose, and often felt a bit uneasy by the tone flipping too abruptly from comedy to action to "horror". Part of it is probably because I loathed the protagonist.
* while the visual was simple, there was issues with refreshing the page (which reloaded everything) and with the contrasting of the text (especially when choosing the action in the resource management block).
As a proof of concept (Resource Management Idler in Twine), it worked. This game really tried something new (in my book) with the interactiveness and that should be commendable. But the fiction of it all was really eh.